Court ruling, tax hope boost OPAP

Shares in OPAP jumped more than 3 percent yesterday, outperforming the broader market, on hopes the company may hold onto its betting monopoly in Greece and speculation that a change in government at upcoming elections may result in the revocation of a tax on winnings. Shares in OPAP added 3.36 percent to 17.86 euros, pushing its market value to 5.6 billion euros, versus a 0.59 percent advance on the broader market. Brokers said news that the European Court of Justice had ruled national gambling restrictions may be legal, as long as they target fraud and crime, boosted buying in OPAP. «The news has created hopes that the monopoly can be protected,» said an analyst from a leading Athens brokerage. OPAP Chief Executive Officer Christos Hadjiemmanuil described the decision as «an exceptionally positive development.» OPAP has a monopoly on Greek sports betting until 2020 but has been facing growing competition from foreign online bookmakers who offer higher odds, despite Internet betting being illegal in the country. Investors are also speculating that a win by the socialists in the October 4 elections may result in a soon-to-be-introduced 10 percent tax on winnings being revoked, a move that would make OPAP’s games more attractive to punters. «There is talk that the socialists may be more sympathetic to OPAP,» the analyst said.